Leading unions in the Nigerian aviation industry staged a peaceful protest on Monday morning against the federal government over its plan to concede four major airports in the country.
The National Union of Air Transport Employees (NUATE) and Air Transport Senior Staff Services Association of Nigeria (ATSSSAN) alleged that the planned concession of the airports was skewed in favor of the concessionaires.
The protest, which started at 10 AM, ran through noon on Monday. During the period, vehicular movement was restricted, which led to massive gridlock on the airport road.
Leading the protest were the President of the ATSSSAN, Benjamin Okewu, and the Acting General Secretary of NUATE, Olayinka Abioye.
The Lagos rally started from the Freedom Square close to the headquarters of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) to the General Aviation Terminal (GAT) of the Murtala Muhammed Airport (MMA) to the international wing of the airport.
The unions declared that the partial grounding of activities would continue till Thursday. Apart from the Lagos Airport, other airports affected by the partial grounding included the Nnamdi Azikiwe Airport in Abuja and the Kano Airport in Kano State.
Speaking at the rally, Mr. Okewu noted that the government had in the past few months been making lots of statements concerning the planned concession of the airport, but was yet to speak with the unions on the fate of its members despite several letters written to it.
Mr. Okewu emphasized that before the peaceful protest, it had previously given three ultimatums all to no avail, stressing that the FAAN workers and the unions were opposed to the planned concession because of lack of transparency.
It would be recalled that the Minister of State for Aviation, Hadi Sirika, had earlier in the year unveiled the plan of the government to concession four airports.
Mr. Sirika disclosed that the government had already earmarked some amount of money for their rehabilitation and eventual concession.
He argued that the government could no longer handle some of the critical sectors like aviation and it was pertinent for it to handover the running of airports to competent and capable hands.
“We are not saying the government should not concession airports, but it must be transparently done. As unions, we have written to the government three times on its planned intention. We actually seek audience with them, but we have received no response from them,” Mr. Okewu said.
“Also, we have given the government three ultimatums in the past, but the government did not deem it fit to reply to any of our letters or even the ultimatums we issued previously.”
Also speaking at the venue, Mr. Abioye insisted that the workers would resist any attempt by the government to concession the four major airports, adding that the unions were aware that cartels in the system were already coming forward to ‘buy’ these viable airports.
He maintained that the unions would not mortgage the destiny of over 6,000 FAAN workers into the selfish hands of a few political cartels or individual concessionaires.
Mr. Abioye further posited that the uncontrolled employment and improper placement of certain categories of staff without recourse to the Federal Character and Public Service Rule was a ploy to render the FAAN insolvent for them to acquire.